On 10 November the Virginia Beach-based Military Aviation Museum announced the acquisition of Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero c/n 3148, which will fly soon following restoration by Legend Flyers in Everett, Washington.
Built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in September 1942, 3148 is now painted in its original wartime markings, replicated down to an unusual set of insignia on the fuselage that indicate the fighter was donated to the Imperial Japanese Navy by middle-schoolers in Japanese-occupied Manchuria.
The machine was stationed at bases across the South Pacific, research undertaken by Legend Flyers suggesting 3148 was part of the 252nd Kokutai (Naval Air Group). Later it would fight from bases at Rabaul, as well as Balalae and Munda, in the Solomon Islands, before being ordered to Taroa in the Marshall Islands in March 1943. During its operational career, 3148 saw action against both US Army Air Forces and US Navy aircraft, but it was shrapnel damage from a bomb blast while parked close to the runway at the important Japanese base on Taroa that would end its career. The A6M sat at Taroa until 1991, when it was transported to the USA in the hope of restoration. Following several changes of ownership, the Zero finally found its way to Legend Flyers in the spring of 2011. Work on the aircraft began in earnest a decade ago.
Military Aviation Museum director Keegan Chetwynd explains, “Aircraft acquisitions by the museum are always a carefully thought-out endeavour. Restorations represent a significant investment of time, and of funding, requiring that they be planned out long in advance. The museum has a collection plan that has identified aeroplanes that are key to sharing the narrative of World War Two with a modern audience, and the Zero was one of our highest-priority targets.”